Artist Stephen Dicerbo | AHA! A House for Arts

Artist Stephen Dicerbo | AHA! A House for Arts


(acoustic guitar music) – [Stephen] I’ve always
been involved with fish, and interested in fish. I think the first
memory I have actually was of walking between the
raceways of a hatchery, looking down at fish. I mean from what
my parents tell me, I was so young, I can’t
believe I actually the memory, but it seems to be it. I grew up in Schenectady. I can remember tryin’ to get
older kids in the neighborhood to bring me up Central
Park to go fishing when I was a kid. And it’s what I
always wanted to do and I did it my entire life. And the same with the artwork. I just kept painting and drawing you know, my whole
life, through my teens. So it was kinda
natural that the fish that I had interested
in and the outdoors and the natural science would become part of my
artwork and my expression. Most recently, I’ve become focused on Gyotaku, which is Japanese fish printing. (Asian music) It’s a form of printmaking, like block printing, or etching, or other forms of printmaking, except that the fish, you use the actual fish, which serves as
a printing block. It started as a
Japanese fisherman’s way to record his catch. But since then, it’s
evolved into an art form. Who have taking the
process and the end product into an elevated level. The first method, Chokusetsu-ho, which means, Direct
Fish Printing, is where the fish is prepped. So we put some cotton
down in the mouth. We put some in
where the gills are. And then we super glue and we glue down the
Operculum, or the gill flap. Put the paper towel down,
we call ’em slip sheets, so that I can ink the fish and I can go… Cover all the way to the edges, but I don’t have to
worry about excess ink getting on the board. Okay, so now we’ve got
the ink pretty much distributed along on the fish. I’m gonna get a
piece of Washi paper. The paper is Washi, is an art form in and of itself. It’s not made from rice, even though sometimes
it’s called, Rice Paper. It’s actually made from a couple of different types of plants. Primarily a Mulberry plant. It’s a really
interesting process. And I think I’ve made contact
pretty much with everything, so are we ready
for the big reveal? I do my tinting from
the back of the print, so we flip this over. These are water-based colors. And this is done as
a rough approximation to prevent it from
becoming a painting and no longer a print. Anything I do to
it cannot obscure or hide the original
print itself. The only thing left to
make this fish complete is to paint the eye. I met up with a group called, Nature Printing Society, and it’s a fellowship
of printers, both Gyotaku printers
and plant printers; botanicals and all kinds of natural science
printmaking forms. I met a good friend
of mine from Japan, Mineo Ryuka Yamamoto. Who’s been referred to as
the Ambassador of Gyotaku. He would come to the United
States several times a year teaching Gyotaku
printmaking workshops. And then I went to Japan
and visited him for awhile and worked with him. A couple of years ago he
honored me with the title of Master Gyotaku Printmaker. And that’s when I was giving the Japanese artist
named, Mutsugoroh. Mutsugoroh is the
name of a fish, a Japanese blue
spotted mudskipper. It’s his favorite fish. So he basically
named me, Mudskipper. But I embrace that and
love the guy to death. I learned a lot from him. Indirect printing, which is what my
Sensei taught me, instead of inking
the fish directly, you use rice paste to
adhere silk to the fish. Very, very closely
glued to the fish. And then, by using
oil-based inks, you apply the inks to the silk. But not to the fish, therefore, indirect. It’s a longer process. It’s more delicate. It works much better with fish that have finer
scales, or no scales. (acoustic guitar music) There’s a large
percentage of people who are not really
aware of the art form. So it’s really great to talk
to them and tell the process. And they’re really kind of
amazed and intrigued by it. I’ve picked up
quite a few students and printmakers
in the Adirondacks starting to build a
little bit of a club. Educating people and bring
’em into the knowledge and then the ones that
are really interested in the knowledge
of how to do it, it brings great joy really.

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